Five high-school freshmen are being hailed as heroes after forming a human chain to save two young kids who fell through ice into a freezing pond while sledding in New Jersey.
Little Olivia Heid, 8, and her 4-year-old brother, RJ, were sledding for the first time when their inner tube hit a patch of ice Thursday, sending them careening into a partially frozen pond at Beacon Hill Country Club in Atlantic Highlands off Sandy Hook Bay.
“I started screaming,” their mom, Stephanie Irlbeck, 35, told the Asbury Park Press of helplessly watching on. “I couldn’t get down fast enough, they were going really fast.”
Her kids’ inflatable sled “kind of floated for a little bit” before sinking through the ice into the pond — with the nearby high-schoolers racing into action before the youngsters “even hit the water,” Irlbeck said.
One of the Middletown High School North students — Kiernan Foley, 14 — immediately leaped into the water, wading out to reach the terrified youngsters, losing both his snow boots in the process.
“I didn’t see anyone else be able to do anything, so I just jumped in,” he told Patch.
“I picked them up, and my friends formed a chain, and we got the boy first and handed him to my friends,” Foley said of RJ, who can’t swim.
“Then I got the girl,” the local Boy Scout said.
The other high-schoolers — Ryan Day, 15, and 14-year-olds Drew Scalice, Joseph Dietrich and Tyler Armagan — helped get both youngsters to safety and comforted them until their parents were able to race down the hill.
“Kiernan, I give him all the credits, he jumped right in there without any hesitation,” Day told the Kids Who Kare charity in a Facebook video interview after the rescue.
“All of us were a great team, we all tagged along and saved those kids,” he said.
Irlbeck and her husband, Rich Heid, 35, “couldn’t get down the hill fast enough,” she told Patch.
“What was amazing to me was to see the boys immediately know how to form a human chain. I don’t know how they knew to do that. The whole thing is incredible,” she said.
The couple tried to reward the youngsters — but the teens refused any money.
“They were insanely humble. They didn’t want anything, they just wanted to make sure my kids were OK,” the mom told Patch.
“They kept saying to my kids, ‘You’re safe now. You’re going to get a hot chocolate and a warm bath at home.’ “
The only things the boys did accept were a pair of spare pants and Heid’s boots, to replace Foley’s for the way home.
Irlbeck — who said she was “shaking” and felt like she was “going to throw up the entire ride home” — later penned a tribute to the boys on a Middletown community Facebook page.
“Not only did they stop a potentially catastrophic situation they didn’t even want anything in return,” she wrote. “Thank you. THANK YOU for having such AMAZING KIDS,” she wrote, addressing the teens’ parents.
In the Kids Who Kare video, Foley insisted that he and his buddies were just “at the right place and the right time.
“We hope anyone else would do the exact same thing that we did,” Scalice said in the video.
Foley’s dad, Jason Foley, told Patch that he is proud of his son.
“He and his friends are just like that,” he said. “Just good, all-American kids.”